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Standing Rock: One of Many Branches in the Tree of Humanity

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I stand with the Standing Rock—the oppression against Native Americans is long enough and sick. I decided to join the march and rally for Standing Rock today. Water is life for all of us—some of you do not realize how much sacred water is to us. Growing up in a small town in Washington State—the name of town: ‘Yacolt’ which means haunted place or place of evil spirits also known “the valley of lost children.”

Yacolt, a town in the northeastern part of Washington State, a Native American storyteller once said, “Many years ago a small tribe of Indians went huckleberrying on the prairie and some of their children were mysteriously lost. Since they could not find the children they concluded that they had been stolen by evil spirits. Thereupon they called the prairie Yacolt, meaning ‘haunted place’.” (In Names MSS. Letter 138.) I had lived there for 20 years—on 400 acres—as a kid, I learned how to build a tepee by myself.

I’ve learned how to embrace and appreciate Native American stories encouraged by my grandmother. What disgusted me the most that the schools I attended had tribal-themed mascots promoting discrimination, harassment of students and stereotyping of Native Americans: Fircrest Elementary School (Falcons), Wy’East Middle School (Warriors), and Hudson’s Bay High School (Eagles).

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My grandmother was born in Oregon to her Cherokee mother. I was proud to call Great Pacific Northwest my home—surrounded by Native American spirits there. Mount St. Helens was only 30 minutes back road drive from my home. Yes, the same famous Mount St. Helens erupted in 1980 killing 57 people including one person named Harry S. Truman (not the president) whom my grandfather knew him, I was six years old that time and I do remember that time seeing my family getting everything ready to make sure we were safe for couple of days.

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The ashes are still fresh in my mind today. It was one of all-time classic stories in my life. One day, my grandmother gave me an old book to read in early 1980  and I saw a picture of Mount St. Helens eruption told by Native American stories right before May 1980 eruption (Something like 500 years ago). That picture I had to google was the exactly I saw and I was very surprised to see this picture after all those years. After that, Native American spirit has been flourished into my blood more often. My senior capstone where I decided to sign up to learn about Environmental Education through Native American Lenses—a HUGE CHANGE in my life. The course was all about:

What are Native American perspectives and how can they affect/inform environmental education? How does environment shape our lives and our relationships? How does your own heritage impact who you are today?

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After seeing severe oppression towards Native Americans at Standing Rock, the evil spirits had came back risen by white privileges, I stand with them and will not let them haunt our spirits again. Reflecting on the social identity of Native American people one sees that Native Americans belong to a category whose attributes are part of our larger, popular culture. As a result of the treatment of Native American people in literature and in the media, an extrapolative leap and try to imagine what your world would like if you were a Native American.

Most white people, if they were lead to think about Native Americans, soon make this extrapolative leap, for they have little else to guide them: they have not read about Native American language and culture, and extrapolation must stand in for real knowledge. If it happens that you know someone who is a Native American, another way of apprehending their culture is open and the Native American are trying to send a message that their culture is open. It takes on the characteristics of that particular Native American person, as in:

“It is the story of all life that is holy and is good to tell, and of us two-leggeds sharing in it with the four-leggeds and the winds of the air and all green things; for these are children of one another and their father is one Spirit.”–John Neihardt, author of Black Elk Speaks whom I learned in my Native American Literature course.

The mainstream of western society has attempted for many years to convert the Native Americans into the White-Indian, at the cost of losing cultural traditions, religion, and language of the Native American people. Starvation, incarceration, and enforced “white” education have all been used to turn these Native Americans into cookie-cutter second class citizens. Land and land resources for subsistence also continue to be overlooked and taken without compensation.

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Today with the march and rally was very inspiring! It was worth my time–the speakers were awesome. Not only that but the ASL interpreter was there with a big heart interpreted what the Standing Rock was really about. There were some important people there–few of them are famous celebrities.

I felt great–I did my civil duty today! You should do the same thing, too! I stand in solidarity with the Standing Rock and all the water protectors! Hate crimes against Native Americans—enough! Remember 1851 Dakota Land Cession Treaty—enough of ignorance! Remove all the Native American mascots in schools and sports. #NoDAPL

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-JT

Copyright © 2016 Jason Tozier

This text may be freely copied in its entirely only, including this copyright message.

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